An explosion of orange, blue and white lit up the skies over New Zealand Wednesday night, followed by a series of sonic booms.
Local experts agree that the blinding explosion was probably a low-flying meteor, according to The New Zealand Herald.
YouTube user Josh Sherbone captured the stunning flash on his car’s dash cam in Tauranga, New Zealand. In the video below, the explosion illuminates the night sky.
Shortly after the explosion, hundreds of eyewitness accounts of the blinding light began flooding news stations and social media. WeatherWatch in New Zealand said that they were receiving reports of the flash from around the island country.
Auckland’s Civil Defense sent out a tweet saying the flash was “definitely not lightning, most likely a meteor.”
Fletcher Hodge was in the car with a friend in the city of Rotorua when they noticed the sky turning a bright blue, he told The New Zealand Herald. “The next minute it was practically at the right-hand side. Like only 200 to 300 meters away. It came in slow and then sped up. There were big bright blue flashes and then it went straight down into a gully … It was like looking out at a street light from your house and it looked closer than a street light.”
Noel Manford of the Palmerston North Astronomical Society told the Herald he estimated that the meteor would have been the size of a cricket ball that was traveling at about 89,477 miles per hour.
“This thing probably broke off from some impact collision between a couple of asteroids a few million years ago,” he said, “and it has been wandering around the solar system until it happened to put on its display for people over New Zealand last night.”
Seismologist Lara Bland of the research institute GNS Science told local news site Stuff that the meteor appeared to shake the ground for about 14 to 15 seconds. At around 9:59 p.m. she recorded a “small increase in higher frequency energy,” she said.
Astronomer Grant Christie — who, according to Stuff saw the meteor while driving home from an observatory — estimated that the meteor could have detonated up to 30 kilometers (18 miles) above Earth and traveled about “30 times the speed of a high velocity bullet.”